St. Pete committee takes first step towards reducing plastic straws and foam

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Today, a key St. Petersburg city council committee took the first step towards the reduction of single-use plastic straws and expanded polystyrene (also known as Styrofoam).

“As a vibrant and growing city, it’s important that we look for ways to minimize our impact on our landfills, waterways, and wildlife,” said St. Petersburg Councilmember Gina Driscoll. “I’m proud that we are moving forward with meaningful changes that reflect our values as good stewards of the environment.”

Amongst a packed room, the Health, Energy, Resiliency, and Sustainability Committee voted 3-1 to move forward with an ordinance banning expanded polystyrene on city property and restricting single-use plastic straws.The full council will need to approve the ordinance for it to go into effect.

“While there’s huge momentum behind consumers and small businesses making individual changes, we know that policy is needed to create sea change,” said Emer Kelly, a representative from the Suncoast Rise Above Plastics Coalition. “We’re proud of St. Petersburg for leading the way!”

Here in Tampa Bay, restaurants and businesses already support moving away from single-use plastics.The Suncoast Rise Above Plastics Coalition has certified more than a dozen businesses and restaurants as Ocean Friendly.

“I am very supportive of eliminating single use plastic items in our city,” said Deana Hawk, owner of St. Petersburg-based Black Crow Coffee Co. “The opportunity to discuss the transition with my customers has been very positive. Switching over to being plastic-free was our first step. The education then came with it. I’m looking forward to St. Petersburg paving the way for the rest of the state of Florida to make a positive change.”

The City stands to eliminate single-use plastic straws with a lengthy implementation period so businesses can plan accordingly; eliminate polystyrene usage from City property and events; and place a fee on single-use bags.

“We’re grateful for the common-sense leadership of Councilmembers Driscoll, Rice, and Wheeler-Bowman,” said Jennifer Rubiello, state director of Environment Florida. “Nothing we use for a few minutes, such as straws, foam cups and takeout containers, and plastic bags should pollute our coasts and oceans for hundreds of years.”

Cities, counties and companies nationwide and around the world are taking sweeping action to prevent plastics from reaching out waterways. So many, in fact, that National Geographic has taken to cataloguing these efforts. 

The HERS committee will consider reducing single-use bags at a later meeting.